What's in Your Soft Drink?

Many people enjoy soda every day. Few really think about its effect on our health.

Many sodas contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant. Besides its ability to make a person jittery (and contribute to the hyperactivity of children), caffeine may have other effects on our bodies. Some research has linked heavy consumption of caffeine with heart problems such as abnormal heart rhythms (called arrhythmias).

Soda is sometimes referred to as "liquid candy" because of its high sugar content and lack of nutritional value. One 12-ounce can of soda contains approximately 9 teaspoons of sugar and 144 calories – all empty (nutritionless) calories. Adults and children often consume more than 12 ounces in one sitting, however, when they serve themselves from 2-liter bottles or buy the large drinks typically available at movie theaters or convenience stores.

The availability of soda in school settings has become controversial in recent years. It has been associated with a rise in overweight children and teenagers. Some critics have recommended that soda (in addition to sports drinks and other high-calorie drinks) be removed from schools, and some schools have complied.

Children and teens, however, are not the only ones affected by the adverse health effects of soda. Adults also face health consequences. The high levels of sugar and low nutritional value of soda can negatively affect your teeth (by leading to tooth decay) and blood sugar levels. The phosphorus in soft drinks can interfere with absorption of calcium, a risk to bone health.

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